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Testimony Ends in Tennessee Schoolbook Case

July 24, 1986|Associated Press

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Testimony ended Wednesday in a trial of a school system's reading books with an attorney asking that public education be saved from seven fundamentalist Christian families, who say they are being persecuted for their beliefs.

The families sued the Hawkins County schools to obtain alternative books for their children, complaining that a 1983 Holt, Rinehart & Winston Inc. reading series teaches evolution, humanism and 14 other themes offensive to their strict interpretation of the Bible.

U.S. District Judge Thomas G. Hull set an Aug. 22 deadline for additional written arguments in the case and scheduled final oral arguments for Sept. 24. If he decides for the families, Hull will seat a jury to decide if damages should be awarded.

Denying alternative reading books for the families would "send the message that Christians are second-class citizens," said attorney Michael Farris, who was hired to represent the families by Concerned Women for America, a conservative Washington-based group.

Modern Scopes Trial

Both sides said the eight-day trial was a modern version of the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial in which Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debated whether Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in Tennessee's public schools.

Farris said he saw the case as "Scopes upside down and in reverse, with Christians being persecuted."

Timothy Dyk, who argued the school system's case, said the lawsuit was "an attack on public education."

"We're not talking about four or five children. We're talking about anyone who has a religious objection to public school curriculums," Dyk said.

The families had asked that their children be excused from class and allowed to read from another reading series when the Holt books were being used. Hawkins County school officials refused, saying the solution was too cumbersome and would hinder classroom instruction.

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